I’m skipping the introduction this month. If you’re curious about previous grammar post introductions, please search older posts.
The introduction is being skipped this month. The older posts can be checked for previous grammar post introductions.
Did you just do a double take? The first two paragraphs are similar. Other than being repetitious, can you pick out which of the two paragraphs above contains active voice? Which one moves you right along? Which one has you yawning?
This month’s grammar tip investigates the difference between active voice and passive voice. It’s common to hear the rule ‘avoid passive voice.’ If you’re a writer, it’s a good rule to follow if you want to keep your reader engaged. There are times, however, when passive voice is fine. Honest. Read on.
Active voice is dynamic and the ‘doer’ of the action is obvious. Passive voice is, well, laid back and can leave questions in the reader’s mind as to who is doing what. The time to use passive voice is when you want to emphasize results instead of who achieved those results.
Check out the following examples and see what you think (passive is listed first).
- The ball was kicked.
- Scott kicked the soccer ball.
- The limo was driven by Mr. Boyd.
- Mr. Boyd drove the empty limo into a house.
- The project was managed effectively.
- Shelly and her team brought the project in under budget and ahead of schedule.
- The computer was repaired.
- I fixed my computer.
The following are examples of where you may find passive voice to be the preferred voice:
- My advice was followed.
- My students followed my advice.
- The water was heated to 185 degrees.
- She heated the water to 185 degrees.
- The convenient store was robbed.
- Unknown persons robbed the convenient store.
The overall rule for choosing active or passive is to use what best says what you mean.
If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment about it.
Lisa Jackson is an independent editor, writer, journalist, and chocolate lover. She writes fiction as Lisa Haselton, has an award-winning blog for book reviews and author interviews, and is on the staff of The Writer’s Chatroom where she gets to network with writing professionals on a weekly basis! © Lisa J. Jackson, 2011